A Positive Speaking Environment
By Chris Joscelyne
Several years ago I was the guest speaker at a franchising industry
breakfast at the Darling Harbour Convention Centre in Sydney. It was a
typical Sydney winter's morning … fine and clear with a spectacular
The room had been prepared with the speaker's lectern on the eastern
side of the room in front of huge ceiling-to-floor windows overlooking the
city. Yes, you guessed it. I had to stand in front of that spectacular
view and compete with it for the attention of the audience. It was a tough
Ever since, I have paid very careful attention to room set-up. My goal
is to create the most positive environment for the audience. Sometimes
this requires rearrangement of the room, so I always discuss this with
meeting organisers well before the event.
If you are organising a meeting, seminar or conference, you can apply
some simple and logical ideas that will create a positive environment for
your speakers and your audience.
Here are my suggestions:
- Place seats for least external distractions - visual and noise
- Locate the presentation area as close as you can to the audience
- For a small audience, use a semi-circular seating layout
- Avoid long narrow rooms - rear rows will feel isolated from the
- Guide attendees towards front rows by placing "Reserved"
signs on rear rows - these signs can be removed as the room fills
- Ensure sufficient isles so that audience members do not have to
cross more than five others to get to a seat
- For a large audience, set isles wider closer to the exits.
- Keep room lights bright unless data projection or slides are to be
- If room lights are dimmed for a slideshow, put a soft light on the
presenter - don't leave the presenter in the dark.
- Ensure that windows can be covered if natural light must be reduced
for screen presentations
- Test and ensure that the sound and audio-visual equipment is
- Have backup equipment and a backup plan in case of equipment failure
- Provide cool water and a fresh drinking glass for each speaker -
this is often forgotten
- Check room temperature for comfort - a hot or cold room kills
- Ensure that food and beverage arrangements are appropriate
- Locate toilets - if they are some distance from the room post a
- Be aware of emergency exit locations
- Make sure there are signs displayed to direct attendees to your
By following this checklist you can create a positive environment for
speaking, listening and learning. It works for me and I hope it works for
About the author: Chris Joscelyne trained as a
clinical hypnotherapist under the tutorage of Margaret Tomko. He was taught
grief counselling by Mal McKissock, and he learned meditation in a course sponsored by the Department of Health. He developed his personal awareness knowledge with
mentors Barbara and Terry Tebo of Lifespring.
For ten years Chris was a visiting lecturer at the
Australian Film, Television and Radio School where he taught personal
development, meditation and stress management skills. Now he shares his
knowledge with a wider community as a speaker, trainer and coach, teaching
people how to live "Life
by choice - not by chance".
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